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I AM THE TRUE VINE

I was six, and my family was spending Easter weekend in southern Indiana with my father’s family. Sunday morning we were headed to Sunday School and church. Cousin Susie told me I would LOVE Sunday School — I wasn’t so sure – I was nervous going to a strange church.

But oh — I did! To this day I still remember two things: the absolute warmth of the teacher (she hugged me right away!) and the little plant we each got to pot and take home as our very own.


She told us to put them in the sun, water them, and watch! From this little plant would spring little branches, and more leaves, because it was ALIVE, just like Jesus.

I took my plant home, and each morning jumped out of bed  to see what new growth was there, my heart filled with wonder. It grew and grew and grew!

When Jesus proclaims “I AM the true vine,” so “abide in me,” He was making the point that the only way we can be alive is if we are in Him and He in us. That’s the only way we can bear fruit, because an unattached branch will never be able to do it. You can hang things on a dead branch — but the branch has not produced them.

 

Tim Keller often contrasts morality  with true Christianity. Morality is something you do yourself — hanging things on a dead branch.

You can be moral, and not connected to the vine. You can obey the rules and be quite self-righteous about it. There can even be a certain beauty and order to your life. Keller says you are like a snowflake: perfect, beautiful, symmetrical, and FREEZING. There is no true life there.

an actual snowflake magnified

 

In contrast, Christianity is organic. Because you are rooted in One who is ALIVE, The True Vine, as you abide in Him and He in you, you will bear much fruit. If you don’t bear fruit, then you are dead, and you will be cut off and thrown into the fire.

 

Photograph by Mark Paul Bishop, M.D. from Wisconsin

What I see in this wonderful group, and I was particularly impressed last week, is how you are abiding, how you are responding to pruning, and how you are bearing fruit, fruit that will last. I loved seeing the excitement — as in Laura-dancer — of gazing on Jesus as THE GREAT I AM and being in awe. Beholding Him for who He truly is is abiding, is connecting to the vine, and that inevitably leads to fruit.

Real fruit has enemies — “little foxes” that spoil the vines. We’ll consider that.

Catch for us the little foxes that spoil the vineyards (Song of Songs 2:15)

Real fruit needs pruning — and it is our Father who tends the vine. All that He cuts is for good. But pruning is painful. (It’s the Stonecutter, or Vine Tender at work!)

To hearken back to Elizabeth’s story of learning to forgive — it was a revelation to her that true forgiveness always involves suffering. Someone has to pay the debt — it doesn’t seem fair that the perpetrator isn’t the one, but often it is the one wronged who must pay. It hurts to let someone off the hook who doesn’t deserve it. And yet that is what Christ did for us. When Elizabeth suffered in order to forgive, she was allowing God to prune, and oh — what beautiful fruit has come from that!

It always hurts to die to our idols — but then LIFE comes. There is never a death without a resurrection.

Last week was important — but oh, this week is too. It’s not as lengthy, because I so want you to keep up.

Sunday/Monday

1. What stands out to you from the above and why?

 

2. How is the Lord wanting to prune you? Are you yielding or fighting? Explain.

 

 

3. Last week several of you commented, after listening to the sermon, about how easy it is to slip from abiding to morality. Do you think your abiding has increased during Lent? If so, do you sense any more of the fruit of His Spirit?

 

4. Choose a Lenten discipline for the week — this study or something else.

 

Monday-Wednesday: Bible Study (John 15:1-17)

5. What statement does Jesus make in John 15:1 and what are the implications? (There are several.)

 

PRUNING


Pruning grape vines

6. Read John 15:2-10

A. Which branches, according to verses 2 and 6, are thrown into the fire? What does this mean?

 

B. Which branches are pruned, according to verse 2, and why?

 

Last week my friend Rachel said, “I am beginning to welcome trials as friends for they really do help me grow if I have the right attitude. I don’t want idols in my life. I also realize the pruning may never stop, but that’s okay.”

C. Think about the last time you may have been pruned (or you may be going through it now.) Honestly, how do you see it and why? What do you think of my friend Rachel’s comment?

 

D. What do you learn about abiding from verses 4-5? What are some ways you truly can abide in Jesus? (Include insights from John 15:9-10.)

 

E. What do you learn about how Jesus is a friend, and also, what He longs for from us as His friends? (v. 12-17) If a verse quickens you, stop there, meditate, and share your thoughts here.

7. Read Song of Songs 2:13-17 (Challenge passage — do your best) Often today Song of Songs is applied only to earthly marriage, but it must also be applied to our relationship with our heavenly bridegroom.) Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, comments on this passage, and I’ll paraphrase him at the end. But do your best before you read his interpretation — and apply this to you and Jesus.

A. What does the bridegroom ask of the bride in verse 13? What might this cost in your life?

 

B. Where is she, according to verse 14, and what does he want of her? What does this mean?

 

C. What enemy lurks if she does not respond to him and come higher with him according to verse 15?

 

D. What does she tell him to do according to verse 17?

 

Hudson Taylor, who knew what is was to take risks (google him and find out about his life) says that this time she refuses him (later she grows and goes higher). He writes: “How many foxes there are in our lives…disobedience to the voice in small things…and the fruitfulness of the vine is sacrificed! … She dismisses him to go to the mountain alone (verse 17) Poor foolish bride! She will find that the things that once satisfied her can satisfy her no longer. (Hudson Taylor, Intimacy with Jesus, Understanding the Song of Solomon OMF)

E. Comments on Taylor?


Thursday-Friday

Choose one of these sermons — the first is 2.50 and is entitled I AM THE VINE —

Click here: http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&product_ID=17294&ParentCat=6

“Click on the link, then click the arrow next to”‘format”, then click on “MP3 $2.50”, then click “Add to cart”, then click “checkout”. Follow the rest of the directions to download onto your computer.

The second free, and is on the fruit of the Spirit and covers some of the same principles

Click here: http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/how-change

 

8. Share your notes from the sermon

 

 

Saturday:

9. What is your take-a-way for the week and why?

 


 

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472 comments

  1. This is all I can do today–and I’m not even re-reading first, so it may make no sense–this trial just may make a laid back person out of me yet 😉
    A. What does the bridegroom ask of the bride in verse 13? What might this cost in your life?
    “Arise—and come away” Get up from what I am doing, from what has preoccupied my time, my thoughts, my heart. Get up, and lay it down—the way my grandmother would lay down her knitting when we came over—and she would get up and come to us—giving all her attention. For me, I my knitting is my to-do list, my computer, housework, my concerns. It is my complaints, my fears. It is even my day dreams. Put them down, and get up and He says “come away’. He does not say “go”—but rather, “come”—I am not running away from things, I am running to Him—and the “come” gives me a picture that His hand is outstretched, He will help me up, He will hold my hand and walk with me. He will not run ahead, He knows just what I need, and He wants me to be His companion.

  2. I thought I posted #2 but can’t find it so reposting. Sorry if I repeat.

    2. I think right now the Lord is pruning me with irritations. I am such an impatient person and this week I am seeing it acutely. He spoke to me last night as I was driving behind someone slow. I decided that I want to allow this in my life. I want to yield. It seems such a small thing but He has spoken to me about it. So I pray that You will open my eyes Lord so that I can see this every time I do it. Help me to be grieved by this impatience in my heart and by Your Spirit be changed toward the likeness of Jesus.

    3. I do find myself abiding more. I focus more on Him than on what I do or do not do. I talk to Him more and I listen more. One of the things that I find growing in me more and more is an appreciation of nature that gives me more joy than ever before. I am seeing more fruit in relationships and less in housework. My family is more relaxed and there is a special gift from the Lord here. I have never had a nice house and part of it is my own fault because I did not work for it as some do and part is because my husband just does not care very much about that. In the last few years there have been so many decorating problems that I have really just tried to keep it clean and nothing more. But here is the wonder. God has been showing me how to put things together, especially with colors. I am beginning to take pleasure in my house again. It is not what I would call a really nice house, especially since my oldest moved home with all of his stuff, but colors and a little new furniture are coming together. God knows that I love beauty, but I had to let go of it first, making Him more important.

    Here is something funny. I wrote a prayer here earlier in the week and typed Amen at the end. When I read back over it, I had typed Anne instead of Amen. The reason I think it is funny is because I signed my name like I was writing to a friend. I do feel more intimate with Him, like I can just talk about anything.

    My relationship with my sister seems to be mended. I went there last weekend and we were very much back to normal. So glad about that. I did not realize how much that was bothering me.

    1. Oh Anne, I giggled when I read how you ended the prayer – sweet. I like the driving behind someone slow without irritation. He’s doing the same with me. My new dentist was good to me today but made an error which I then had to go back for. I found it a joy to be kind and not irritable even though I was really exhausted from several painful shots to get me numb. Oh, and yesterday I was at the grocer and the dear tiny little lady who rang me up looked like she was right off of skid row with marks and bruises and my heart melted with His love for her. I felt like God was flowing right out of every pore. Here’s the great part, she started off gruff but by the time I left she was smiling and gracious. I know she felt Him. Oh Jesus, give me more opportunities to love like you love!

      1. Kim, this is so wonderful how He is meeting you. I can hear your joy in your words.

    2. You know Anne, I also have struggled with the house thing. It has been hard. I think it is an interesting thought you have, about being right with Him first. Curious. I am glad I have spent the last couple of years learning and yearning for God. I am not in the same place as you yet, but I hope it will come soon 🙂

  3. D. What do you learn about abiding from verses 4-5? What are some ways you truly can abide in Jesus? (Include insights from John 15:9-10.)
    These passages are speaking about knowing Him intimately in fellowship and not our judicial standing. I am seeing more and more that He owns me. He has paid a price for me and it is all about Him. I like to think of He and I as interlocking – I am in Him and He is in me as vs.4 says. I also like what Susan said today that He is able to keep me connected. I need not take on that worry.
    Ways in which I can abide in Jesus is to allow Him full access to me, realizing that I must sit at His feet daily, washing myself with the Word, giving Him my day and asking for opportunity to serve. I also find refreshment in learning about Him through sermons online and good books. I am reading Kay Arthur now. I am filling my spare time with spiritual things which assist me in abiding.

  4. 6. Read John 15:2-10

    A. Which branches, according to verses 2 and 6, are thrown into the fire? What does this mean?

     The branches that don’t bear fruit and the ones that wither and die because neither has the Lord in them. I think it means those people who abide in Jesus are the ones who are most productive and successful in their lives.

    B. Which branches are pruned, according to verse 2, and why?

     The pruned branches are the ones that bear no fruit.

  5. C. Think about the last time you may have been pruned (or you may be going through it now.) Honestly, how do you see it and why? What do you think of my friend Rachel’s comment?

    Well, I’m not a real fan of trials. I guess it’s because I don’t feel like my husband and I ever “get a break.” we are always going through something. I would just like some times in our lives to be easy, so we can coast. It doesn’t happen for us. If we have 20 extra dollars then something will occur that eats up the 20 instead of letting us save it. We wouldnt EVER be the ones to win the lottery! I have just resigned myself that this is our life and we just deal with it. I don’t look forward to the next issue, I just know it’s coming and we need to know how to deal with it.

    Pruing is constant in my life. I wish I could learn so it wouldn’t be so painful all the time and God would leave me alone! Prune someone else please Lord! I just need “easy,” and “fall into place” sometimes 🙂 but I know He always provides.

  6. E. What do you learn about how Jesus is a friend, and also, what He longs for from us as His friends? (v. 12-17) If a verse quickens you, stop there, meditate, and share your thoughts here.

    He quickened me here: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”- I stopped there. I can’t love others unless I embrace how He has loved me-and find satisfaction in Him-let Him fill me up. By embracing I mean meditating and chewing on Him-the Gospel every day. This is crucial in order to lay down my life for my friends and to truly love others. He explains it later on-He has made known to me all the things of the Father-WOW!! What a privilege and honor-what a truth and reality to meditate on! What power He has given me to love!

    7. Read Song of Songs 2:13-17 (Challenge passage — do your best) Often today Song of Songs is applied only to earthly marriage, but it must also be applied to our relationship with our heavenly bridegroom.) Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, comments on this passage, and I’ll paraphrase him at the end. But do your best before you read his interpretation — and apply this to you and Jesus.

    A. What does the bridegroom ask of the bride in verse 13? What might this cost in your life?

    He asks her to arise and come with Him. This would cost me to forsake whatever is keeping me from arising and coming.

    B. Where is she, according to verse 14, and what does he want of her? What does this mean?

    She is in the cleft of the rock. He wants her to show him her face, let him hear her voice. Oh this passage is beautiful, tender, lovely, romantic. He wants her to trust His love for her and to ‘come out of the cleft of the rock.’ To take His hand and arise and go with him. She isn’t even showing her face or talking-she is totally turned from Him, yet He is wooing her out. He wants her to take her eyes off of her fear and place them on Him-to go further in to Him and higher up.

    C. What enemy lurks if she does not respond to him and come higher with him according to verse 15?

    The Fox will destroy the fruit-the fragrance that was on the fig tree in the beginning won’t flow through.

    D. What does she tell him to do according to verse 17?

    To turn from her and go away.

    Hudson Taylor, who knew what is was to take risks (google him and find out about his life) says that this time she refuses him (later she grows and goes higher). He writes: “How many foxes there are in our lives…disobedience to the voice in small things…and the fruitfulness of the vine is sacrificed! … She dismisses him to go to the mountain alone (verse 17) Poor foolish bride! She will find that the things that once satisfied her can satisfy her no longer. (Hudson Taylor, Intimacy with Jesus, Understanding the Song of Solomon OMF)

    E. Comments on Taylor?

    Wonderful. Such rich insight into this passage when he said she will find the things that satisfy her can satisfy her no longer.

  7. The more I ponder this whole “abiding/remaining” thing, the more confused I’m getting! I went and looked up definitions:

    remain: to be a part not destroyed, taken, or used up. To stay in the same place or with
    the same person. To continue unchanged.

    abide: to remain stable or fixed in a state. To continue in a place.

    Going back to 6.D., what do verses 4-5 tell us about abiding; all it really says “to do” is “Remain in Me”. It goes on to explain that we can’t bear fruit apart from Jesus, but the only clear direction as to what to do is to remain, or abide, in Christ.
    In verses 9-10, we get further instruction that in order to remain “in My love”, we must obey.
    I did an online search and found http://www.barnabasletter.org and a section on “Abiding: What Does it Mean to Abide?” Here’s some of what the article said:

    When Jesus spoke to the disciples about spiritual things, He often used nature as a picture to help His disciples understand His point. In John 15, when Jesus spoke of abiding in Him, He used the illustration of the vine and the branches. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Think about this picture of abiding. What image is called up? The vine is the very source of life for the branches. They share in the very same life.

    The question is, what must the branch do to abide in the vine? If I’m a branch, how do I abide? First we have to understand that if we are true Christians, doctrinally our position is already one of abiding in the Vine, Christ. The branchy shouldn’t have to struggle to abide, it’s already been placed into the vine. So, if we have been placed into Christ, that is, into the Vine, all the life of the vine flows through us the branches. If this is our position in Christ, why are we admonished as believers to abide, and why are we instructed that we must abide or we will not bear fruit?
    On the one hand we are told that we are already in the vine, and the next thing we are told is to make sure we abide.

    There is a reason. It is that instead of just abiding and letting God’s life flow through us to bear fruit, we have a tendency to struggle to be a good testimony and bear the fruit ourselves. Even as Christians we try to manufacture a life of our own. We struggle to maintain a certain identity. We as branches go through spasms and contortions struggling in ourselves to be ‘the perfect branch’ as we think we should be. We try to impress others with our spirituality when God just wants us to be what we are so that His life can flow through us.

    I looked back at my answer I posted to this, and I saw I had made a kind of a “to do” list of what I need to do to abide – read my Bible, spend time with Jesus, go to church, worship, pray…. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do these things or that they aren’t important, but I think I got something backwards. I think what I’m trying to put my finger on exactly, is how do we just rest, remain, abide, and let Christ live His life through us? In the gospels, when Jesus got up early to go pray to His Father, I don’t think he said, “Uh-oh, I haven’t had my 15 minutes of quiet time today”. It was His natural thing to do because He was One with the Father. How can we know if and when we get to that place where it stops being us “doing” and it’s Him living through us?

    1. Susan, your last paragraph really hit home. I especially like “…when Jesus got up early to go pray to His Father, I don’t think he said, “Uh-oh, I haven’t had my 15 minutes of quiet time today”. Such a good example of how it should be a natural part of our being, not a duty.

    2. Wow, thank you for sharing this!

  8. E. What do you learn about how Jesus is a friend, and also, what He longs for from us as His friends? (v.12-17) If a verse quickens you, stop there, meditate, and share your thoughts here.

    I learn that Jesus is the Friend that laid down His life for His friends. There is no greater demonstration of love for His friends than this.
    Jesus tells His disciples that the nature of their relationship with Him has changed, “I no longer call you servants…instead, I have called you friends”. He explains that the master’s business is no business of his servants. But, as His friends, Jesus chooses to confide in them, “all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you”.

    I think of my very best friend. We can confide in each other, tell each other our deepest secrets, feelings, the good and the bad. Jesus is this kind of friend. He makes known to us everything the Father has told Him. Jesus confides in us.

    Jesus chose us to be His friends, we did not choose Him.

    What does He long for from us as His friends? That we would love one another as He has loved us. That we would take the love and friendship He has entrusted to us and go and bear fruit, and have an eternal perspective – He wants our fruit to remain.

    Verse 12 stuck out to me. I have to ask myself, how do I love the “difficult” people in my life, the ones that are kind of “unlovable”, who may not love me the way I want to be loved or who mistreat me? “Just as I have loved you”. That’s not just a prescription for me on how to love others, but a reminder that certainly before I was saved, and even now, there are lots of unlovely, unlovable, things in me; selfishness, pride, stubborness, bad attitudes…I could go on quite a bit here. But, “just as I have loved you”.

    1. Dear Lord Jesus, we humbly ask that YOU would choose the title of Dee’s book. Make it ever so clear, Lord. I pray for You to speak to Dee, to the publishers, that You would bring peace, clarity, and a decision would be made that is pleasing to You Lord. This is no small matter. We know You care about this and You have ALL wisdom. I pray today Lord, would You bring a clear decision and peace to Dee. Would You work in the minds of the publisher too Lord, and open their ears to hear Your Voice. Thank You for the beautiful work You have done in this book, now we ask You to name it. Amen

      1. Thank you Lord. Amen.

      2. Praying also, Dee, that God would give you an answer to your prayers. Thank you Elizabeth…praying with you.

    2. Praying, Dee. Amen to Elizabeth’s prayer. Oh, I feel the battle going in your spirit. Lord, have Your way.

    3. Dee,
      We can sense your heaviness of heart as we read this.
      I agree with Elizabeth’s prayer. This has been the Lord’s project all along – we seek His will and what He would name it.

    4. Praying for you, Dee.

    5. Oh Dee, praying for you and the publisher.

  9. 7. Read Song of Songs 2:13-17 (Challenge passage — do your best) Often today Song of Songs is applied only to earthly marriage, but it must also be applied to our relationship with our heavenly bridegroom.) Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, comments on this passage, and I’ll paraphrase him at the end. But do your best before you read his interpretation — and apply this to you and Jesus.

    A. What does the bridegroom ask of the bride in verse 13? What might this cost in your life?

    “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.”
    He asks her to arise and come away. She will have to set aside her plans and priorities to go with him.

    B. Where is she, according to verse 14, and what does he want of her? What does this mean?

    She is in the cleft of the rock, the crannies of the cliff. Perhaps she has been hiding there because of the cold winter that is just passing. (vs. 11) He wants to see her lovely face, hear her sweet voice. He is wooing her. He does not want her to hide from him anymore. In this passage, God as our lover wants us to look into his eyes and talk to him intimately, without shame.

    C. What enemy lurks if she does not respond to him and come higher with him according to verse 15?

    The little foxes lurk ready to spoil the vineyard. He asks her to catch them. I am unclear on what these foxes are and how to catch them. I also do not understand what connection this has with her coming away with him. In vs. 16, there is a call to do the work of catching the foxes in their vineyards, though. It looks to me as if he is asking her to come away with him higher up on the mountain and also asking her to stay and work the vineyards at the same time. How can she do both at the same time?

    D. What does she tell him to do according to verse 17?

    She tells him to turn and be like a gazelle or young stag on the cleft mountains.

    Hudson Taylor, who knew what it was to take risks (google him and find out about his life) says that this time she refuses him (later she grows and goes higher). …

    E. Comments on Taylor?
    This is an interesting interpretation but it still doesn’t answer my question from the question C. Am I pressing literal interpretation too hard here?

  10. Share your notes from the sermon

    The Vine = Growth
    Fruit has to do with character, potential for enormous change
    Love, Joy, Peace, Patience = forgiving, Kindness = unselfishness, Goodness = transparency, Faithfulness courage, Gentleness = humility, Self control

    How do we change?
    Jesus the True Vine says I AM the key
    Christianity offers a vital connection with Jesus
    The only concrete and cosmic being that ever lived, allowing us to draw on His life, as a branch does

    Growth is a fact, He has appointed us to bear fruit, he wants us conformed to His image
    Everything He has done shows he is engaged to make us into connected to Him beautiful great people, dealing with our flaws and weakness, His tremendous power is available for this, He is committed to our holiness

    Do I live like this is true- do I take this seriously? Am I as scared & happy as I should be?
    This is scary- who knows what He will make us?
    But it is so incredible
    Give up your small ambitions for your own character

    Organic Growth
    Some verses seem to suggest that Christianity is a mechanical & moral thing
    Jesus is after organic change, not through mechanical compliance by external force but through a new inner dynamic.
    Marriage illustration
    Change can be accomplished through mechanical compliance
    External forces (fear & pride) can restrain the heart without changing it, but when you change from fear and pride it is a matter of time before it falls apart

    Christmas Tree
    Improved by decorations, it is beautiful but dead, time will make it look worse

    Jesus is after internal, organic, dynamic change
    All of the branches look connected, but some of them are not connected. No life is going from the vine to those branches.

    I believe in God, I was raised in Church- Jesus says do you have a vital connection that transforms you from the inside? If you do fruit is inevitable

    How do I make the connection and draw on the life of Christ instead of just complying?
    Early in the Christian walk, we often move into doing things for Christ, serving, learning, being busy, getting rid of big sins, we infer the love of God instead of experiencing & drawing on it. Surely since I am such a nice Christian person God must love me

    Understanding this takes time
    We become Christian versions of Christmas trees-
    Without really drawing on Him, working at friendship, listening to Him, praying, knowing Him, spending time walking with Him,
    We find we have not really changed, and bear very little fruit, we have hardly changed at all because we are not drawing
    Those considering Christianity or are not sure they are Christians asking what am I going to have to give up? What are the rules?
    There is no secret book, your making it way too hard & way too easy

    Too hard because you are thinking what it means to be a Christian is to clean your life up-
    The branch doesn’t get grafted in to the life of the Vine because of its fruitfulness- it is fruitful because of the LIFE in the VINE
    Without Christ we can’t do anything the only WAY is to be grafted in- accepted because of what Jesus did

    Too easy because – I don’t want your good behavior- I want You

    “Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

    Christianity is harder and easier than what we try to do
    I will be saved completely by Grace therefore Christ wants to be the reason we do everything, He wants to be our life, we give up the rights to our lives

    What does it mean to be vitally connected to HIM?
    The knife of the Lord- we won’t grow w/o pruning. At pruning time, it looks like the gardener is killing the plant, the growth is gone the plant is bleeding, But nothing is cut off that wouldn’t have been a loss to keep and isn’t again to loose.
    God is the gardener, are you saying God makes us suffer so that we will grow? The knife comes to every branch, but if we are connected to His life, the evils of life won’t make us hard, but soft, less human, but more human, stupid, but wise, mean and small but great. The knife makes the connected branch more fruitful
    If not connected to Christ the same knife will cut you off

    Illustration of the women bitter towards their husbands over their failures affecting their sons
    The woman with the worse husband forgave her husband
    The other could not, she became more bitter
    The bitter woman’s son was her vine- There was no way she could forgive herself or anyone else
    The forgiving woman became a beacon
    The other woman began to draw on the joy & the love of Jesus, she began to pray, she did not just get busy, but grew her Friendship, His words remained in her- she became something great

    Jesus Christ was cut off that we might just be cut back
    The gate of Garden of Eden was guarded by a sword
    The Holy of Holies could only be entered once per year by the high priest by way of the alter with a blood sacrifice under the knife to enter the presence of God
    The only way we could get back into Gods presence was for someone to take the divine sword of justice-punishment
    When the veil was ripped-Jesus was cut off from the land of the living
    (Not that I must be a pretty good person surely You love me)

    But the more we think if Christ did this for me surely I can live for Him
    That is drawing on the life, drawing joy from him, remaining in His love, the knife can make us draw from Him and change us

    C.S. Lewis
    “That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected), he often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along – illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation – he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.
    I find I must borrow yet another parable from George MacDonald. Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurt abominably and does not seem to make sense. What oil earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of-throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

    1. “Jesus Christ was cut off that we might just be cut back”. I haven’t listened to the sermon yet but as usual Dr. Keller always brings us back to the gospel. Love how he finds so many ways to connect the dots.

    1. Praying Dee that God will provide the title and peace, and that your offering of your work will be tool used for His glory.

  11. I read the story about being grafted in and it made me thing of my two asian beauties, grafted into our family but just as much as part of the tree as the others….I thing we have a preconcieved notion of what a Christian should look like and talk like and act and tend to think if they dont look like us then they cant be part of the vine! what blessing we lose when we can only except the fruit that looks like us:(

  12. 7. Read Song of Songs 2:13-17 A. What does the bridegroom ask of the bride in verse 13? What might this cost in your life?
    He beckons me come away with Him, come and be with Him. He calls me His own, His darling – a term of endearment. I am beautiful in His sight. He wants me. I love that He sees and declares not what I see myself as but what I can become. He sees me with Christs’ righteousness – This is beautiful!
    It will cost me everything and be worth everything to belong to Him completely. To set aside my priorities, my wants and desires to enjoy Him, learn of Him, abide and commune with Him. To want Him more than my idols.

    B. Where is she, according to verse 14, and what does he want of her? What does this mean?
    He calls her His dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside. For her to show Him her face, He says, “let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.”
    She thinks she is safe in the cleft. Maybe she is hiding from Him since He cannot see her face and hear her voice. Maybe she is caught up in selfishness or idol worship and He is calling her to higher ground – ground that she doesn’t yet know will be more satisfying than earthly things she is pouring her life into.

    C. What enemy lurks if she does not respond to him and come higher with him according to verse 15?
    The little foxes that want to steal the fruit, spoil her fruitfulness. To me this could be my desire for what the world can offer, eyes set on the natural, the flesh. He wants me to leave this behind for Him. Come higher with him to greater more satisfying things.

    D. What does she tell him to do according to verse 17?
    Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills. Thank you for not asking what this verse means. 😉

  13. Great Sermon!! My random notes!
    Nature-Fruit of Spirit (Deliberate evoke of picture of growth) Christian change is gradual like
    a turnip growing. You can never see it because it is small and gradual. Very slow and mysterious
    Need to be patient!! Don’t see dramatic change and change overnight. Seasons though where it comes
    quickly..One season is wintertime where they do grow but you see nothing. Growth in these graces
    is very gradual and mysterious. Growth is something you never feel and only can be measured and
    tested. Cannot tell until a trial comes. seed producing fruit is
    gradual
    inevitable-will be change, will worry less, be loving, face troubles, etc…acorn vs slab.
    interesting. Power in gradualness. Power is from Spirit of God. If you have Him you will be
    changing. Real faith will lead to growth. Ppl who know you ask…seeing changes…The Spirit if
    there will definately grow.
    internal-organic growth does not happy in quanity of outside. Can be very religious and not have
    gospel. Careful looking, did good things and wrote books, etc. Growing record and resume but not
    growing themselves. People can still be changed by you when you are not changing. That is NOT a
    fruit of the Spirit.
    symetrical-fruit-singular word…sub singlular/predicate plural..on purpose Paul is showing imp
    about real Christian change. All of these things are one. If you want to know if growth in life is
    real from the gospel and not counterfit that will go away or just part of your temperment..
    must see they are always absolutely concavenantly.
    1-all graces of Christianity go together. Real peace goes with humility. Worry is an arrogance
    refusal to accept a humble hand. Anyone who worries thinks they know how things have to go. Peace
    that is always there is based on God. God knows what we need. We put ourselves in His hands. If
    proud and peaceful because things are going well for you. Counterfit peace because it is based
    on things going how you want them. faithful are loyalty and courage…real gentleness has to go
    with love and faithfulness. If you are afraid to hurt people’s feelings it is not real love.
    2-They are also interdependent (the graces) Lots of ppl think they have self control but real self
    control includes joy. Reason addicted to things is because no joy. They all come together. Peace and
    joy-integrity. Integrity is a person who is the same every place you go. Comes from utter joy and
    tremendous peace.

    Main problems in life are the things you want too much…too important and more important than
    Jesus Christ promoting works of the flesh. Desires of Spirit is love for Jesus. Spirit is always
    looking at Christ and saying the reason you don’t have this fruit is because you cannot see how
    beautiful Jesus is. Fruit of Spirit is only something you can open yourself too. His power changes
    us to be more that way. We have to crucify those bad desires and look at Jesus. Lust for Him.
    Spirit and flesh both lusting listen to the Spirit. Whole point is to make Jesus real. Need truth
    about Jesus to be so real my desires for things become managealbe and fruit begins to grow.

  14. i read this today in my husband’s Jerry Bridges devotional and wanted to share, it’s really touching my heart today–thankfully found it typed online!:

    “The absolute holiness of God should be of great comfort and assurance to us. If God is perfectly holy, then we can be confident that His actions toward us are always perfect and just. We are often tempted to question God’s actions and complain that He is unfair in His treatment of us. This is the devil’s lie, the same thing he did to Eve. He essentially told her, “God is being unfair to you” (Genesis 3:4-5). But it is impossible in the very nature of God that He should ever be unfair. Because He is holy, all His actions are holy.”

    The next day’s devotion gives this quote by John Owen:
    “The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that He loves you.”

    1. oh quoting that!! 🙂

    2. I do love these Elizabeth thank you for sharing them

    3. Those are great quotes, Elizabeth.

    4. wonderful quotes, elizabeth! Thank you!

  15. 5. Jesus says that He is the vine and His Father is the vineyard keeper. Wow! This implies that the Father prunes and Jesus is the one being pruned. I NEVER saw this and I may be wrong. Jesus serves the Father by nourishing and growing us. He was pruned to the death initially at the cross. He is also pruned when branches that are ‘in Him’ do not bear fruit.
    Another implication is that while He and the Father are One, they are distinctly different persons with different roles. Jesus’ role is to grow and nourish the church. I should not be surprised by this. I don’t think that I am. I am just awed. Jesus at the right hand of God the Father created and sustains this vast universe, then He redeemed it and now He prepares for Himself His bride. The Father’s role is mysterious to me. Lord, help me to understand You. Keep me from wrong thoughts about who You are. Are You the keeper of holiness? Pruning. Purifying?

    1. Another thing that strikes me is that when we are pruned it hurts Jesus just like pruning hurts us. We are His body.

    2. Wow, Anne. Amazing thoughts. Keller says “Jesus Christ was cut off so that you will only be cut back” so I think he agrees with you. Me too. You word it so vividly.

  16. 6a. The branches that do not produce fruit are thrown into the fire and also the ones that do not remain in Him.

    b. The branches that produce fruit are pruned so that they may produce more fruit.

    c. When I am pruned He is nearer. I suppose He is not any closer really. The difference may be that I am looking to Him more. I talk to Him more. There is less in my life to distract me and to give me a false sense of hope and well being. AND, when I submit and choose Him, the sunshine of His joy floods my heart. Truly, there is nothing better. Also pruning comes to the one who bears fruit, the ones who are connected. Don’t we tend to think as Job’s friends did, that trials come because we are doing something wrong? This says it is because we are doing things right!

    d. I must remain attached to Him. He must be my source of strength and my reason for all that I do. I look to Him for every step that I take. I must study His word and as I come to know Him, I become like Him. I think that is the fruit that He is talking about. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control. This is the fruit we are seeing in each other and it is beautiful. Verses 9-10 tell us to remain in His love by keeping His commands. This stands out to me as so very important. Could it be that disobedience chokes the vine, cutting off the flow of life?

    1. I agree with your answer in C., Anne; there’s nothing like trials and pruning that pull the rug out from under us, so to speak – those things that we’ve falsely placed our hope or comfort or security in are revealed to be just that – false. “There is less in my life to distract me and to give me a false sense of hope and well being”.

  17. Oh dear, I have to back away from typing; my right arm has gone numb. Will continue with reading — Scripture and here. It’s a hazard of the profession…and not so unusual this time of year. (Time for chiro to attack carpal tunnel symptoms; they do miracles counteracting my computer abuse).

    Sections of John 15 are hitting hard. More later.

    1. I look forward to seeing what is ‘hitting you hard’ Renee!

      1. Have an appt in about an hour. Will come back (today) after my hand/arm/wrist is functioning better 🙂

  18. D. What do you learn about abiding from verses 4-5? What are some ways you truly can abide in Jesus? (Include insights from John 15:9-10.)

    You must abide in Jesus by following his path. We must stay connected in our busy lives. We must Love each other and treat one another well because that’s how He would treat us. It is good.

  19. E. What do you learn about how Jesus is a friend, and also, what He longs for from us as His friends? (v. 12-17) If a verse quickens you, stop there, meditate, and share your thoughts here.

    This reminds me of the 2 men fishing this past week in the Gulf of Mexico. They capsized and were 30 miles off the coast. They hooked life vests together but one was dying from the cold water. After a day of trying to survive, the larger one told the smaller man he needed to swim to find help. The sick man wouldn’t cooperate and was hallucinating. The larger friend decided to cut the lines and swim for help. His thought was if he could make it he could get his friend some help. He made it to an oil rig and called for help. Unfortunately it was too late. He loved his friend and soul do anything for him. He did get the coast guard to retrieve his friends body. Sad story but good sentiment.

    We need each other here on earth since Jesus isn’t here with us. We are his stewards of each other 🙂

  20. I wanted to comment on something that Chris posted and that Renee gave an excellent reply to. It’s been on my mind since I read Chris’ post.
    Chris posted, in regard to pruning, and in her loss of her son, “that tendency to think this is all about me, that this happened because of me, to prune me. It has affected and pruned me but God’s purposes are larger than just me, what happened affected many people.”

    Renee answered some of my questions about this when she said, “So important to realize that God’s purposes are greater than me. If I simply look at a tragedy or difficult event as God pruning me, I might even think of Him as somewhat sadistic…..We live in a fallen world…it doesn’t mean He hurts others in order to prune me.”

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I agree with Renee that we can’t look at every trial or tragedy that hits as caused by God to prune us. This is a hard thing to figure out – we live in a fallen world and God has given man free choice. Some people do incredibly evil things to other people, Christian and non-Christians alike.

    If He prunes us to show us some sin in our life, for example, could that be the same thing as Paul talking about God disciplines His children. Pruning = Discipline? Or, in the case of encouraging more fruit, He may teach us patience by us having to deal with people or family members that ‘get on our nerves’?
    What about God’s allowing illness in our lives, as in Angela’s struggle with the effects of Lyme disease, or what Elizabeth is experiencing right now?
    And when someone dies, I agree with Renee. I can’t believe God would ever “cause” the death of someone in order to prune us.

    What then, exactly, is this pruning? Can anyone help me out?

    1. I wonder if its not so much the event that is the pruning but the things that go on in our hearts because of the event. im with you, i dont think God would let someone die for our pruning! but wonder if he then uses our reactions and feelings about that event to prune us?? opening our eyes to just how tied we are to this world and making us long more for HIM. I dont know but i think it may have a lot more to do with what goes on IN us then whats going on AROUND us. I guess I dont think He MAKES things happen to prune us as much He uses things to prune us.

    2. I think that it ties in with Romans 8:28. All things (even the most dreadful) work together for good. The pruning is when we acknowledge this and know that while God did not make this happen (the event is not the pruning), He in His wisdom (the ways and thoughts that are higher than ours) works it for good. We will understand it fully when we meet Him face to face, until then we must trust.

    3. Cyndi and Dawn have offered good answers and I want to add that if God had to bring death on my dad in order to prune me then that’s a mighty big sacrifice and it makes God seem small in my eyes. It makes dad’s death about me and it simply is not. Why bring death upon one person to prune another when there are so many avenues to bring about change without sacrificing a life? I just don’t think God is that unimaginative. It doesn’t fit with His character.
      Does He use tragedy to prune? yes, why not bring beauty out of ashes? That IS His character. ~Just my opinion. 🙂

      1. Do you think that pruning always has a “negative” connotation? Is stretching us in our faith, say, by giving us an opportunity to grow or serve Him in a way that we may think we’re not capable of doing a way of pruning us, too?
        I’m thinking like, with our children, when they try something new and we encourage them, it gives them the confidence to stretch themselves, try new things, and challenge themselves.

        1. Thanks, Dee. I had not thought of being convicted of sin or reaping consequences of sin as pruning, though it’s comforting to know even our bad choices can be a chance to grow, if we respond wisely by turning back to God.

      2. Good thoughts Kim…I’m like you, can’t believe God would bring death upon one person to prune another. But, like all the comments above…lots of us are pruned because of one persons death, so it may be so..that God takes a life to teach several of us.

  21. Hebrews 12:3-11 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
    “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
    6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”
    7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

    I think pruning and discipline mean the same thing.
    Discipline can be defined as punishment, but it also means training, the root word is Latin discipulus, pupil

    To this hard question;

    “I can’t believe God would ever “cause” the death of someone in order to prune us.”

    Just as God did not suggest how Satan would afflict Job, God was in control. Satan had to have his permission and could only go as far as God permitted.

    This is what I wrote and Bill read at Daniels memorial service;

    Daniels conception was not a planned one, and at this time it is so painful to recount how unwelcome it was to me. But as I have always said, he has been such a blessing. He was funny and tenderhearted and I loved him so much it breaks my heart now with unspeakable searing loss.
    I did not understand when I conceived him that my loving heavenly Father was giving me a good and perfect gift. I do not understand now why He allowed this to happen to Daniel and to all of us. I do trust Him however to bring us through this nightmare and to bring good out of it.

    Romans 33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

    I do not believe that God has abandoned us, or is punishing us, I believe that He is fully aware of our great pain at the earthly loss of Daniel. One of the mysteries of God’s greatness is that He allows some things come to pass which He forbids and disapproves of and uses them to accomplish his purposes.
    My hope is that all of you will pause to acknowledge the brevity and fragility of life.
    James;13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
    Rather than shaking your fists at God and hardening your hearts, allow this tragedy to till the soil of your heart and make it soft and ready to receive the love that Christ holds out to each one of you.
    Daniel will live on in our hearts and memories, but so much more comforting is the assurance I have that he belonged to Christ, that he is healed and whole and I will see him again.

    This line;

    One of the mysteries of God’s greatness is that He allows some things come to pass which He forbids and disapproves of and uses them to accomplish his purposes.

    I had borrowed from John Piper.

    I believed the words then, but the pruning and discipline has driven my trust to a much deeper level than before.

    What happened to Daniel was not okay, God does not smile at evil, He is so grieved by it that He sacrificed HIS Son. And yet I allow that He was in control, He allowed it to happen; He has His purposes that I don’t see. I can hold still and know that He is God, I don’t have to be.

    I don’t know if He was punishing me or not. I do agree with Anne, that idols I loved proved useless in the trial. Whether the trial is punishment or training my task is to stay under it, to drive my branch even deeper into the vine, to trust. Not demanding to know why, I have learned to cover my mouth and humble myself.

    1. Chris, Thanks for sharing this… so powerful and God-honoring.

    2. Wow, Chris S. Such depth here. What a powerful testimony for the Lord!

    3. Chris–thank you for sharing this with us. What you said here was so powerful–your faith pushing through: “What happened to Daniel was not okay, God does not smile at evil, He is so grieved by it that He sacrificed HIS Son. And yet I allow that He was in control, He allowed it to happen; He has His purposes that I don’t see. I can hold still and know that He is God, I don’t have to be.”

      1. Such a great post, Chris. Thank you for taking the time to share it. I hope that you’ll find some comfort in knowing that Daniel can’t possibly look on this as a punishment. He has reached the ultimate goal and received his reward. There is no passing of time in heaven so he isn’t even missing you or waiting for you (those are earthly things). Believe me I know that just knowing this will not take away the longing to see and hug him again, but maybe it can ease the pain of it just a bit. Always praying for you.

    4. Chris,
      Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Daniel’s memorial service, though it must have been incredibly hard; your words are beautiful. You honored his life with your words.

  22. I love the memorial you wrote for your son – so beautiful – it has God’s love written all over it. There is a line in it that stands out, “I do not believe that God has abandoned us, or is punishing us, I believe that He is fully aware of our great pain at the earthly loss of Daniel. One of the mysteries of God’s greatness is that He allows some things come to pass which He forbids and disapproves of and uses them to accomplish his purposes.”
    I believe God abhors what happened to Daniel and He weeps with you. I saw this so powerfully when we studied the death of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus. Keller said Jesus wept b/c He looked down through time and saw the pain that death brings to His creation and He wept for us. Death was not in His plan A.

  23. Notes from the sermon “I Am the Vine”. Sorry, they are lengthy. I am finding it hard to summarize briefly and not leave out important points. Hope you glean some good things.

    The vine is talking about growth and fruit. In me, you have the potential for enormous change.Jesus is the key. “I am the true Vine.”

    Christianity offers something that is not just secular mechanical technique, or traditional morality or New Age spirituality. It transcends them. You need to draw on His pulsating life like a branch draws on a vine. That is the secret.

    “I (Jesus) am absolutely with all of my power and being engaged to one goal: to make you a person of greatness, to give you the same incredible glory that I have and to bring my beauty into your life so that you will be a beautiful person too. I am committed to your greatness. ALL of my power is committed to making you a person of greatness and dealing with every flaw, every weakness in your life – your holiness, and your happiness, and your purity and your beauty.” (That is a WOW point for me – hard to really grasp!)

    Jesus is after organic change through a new internal dynamic, not mechanical compliance through external force.
    Examples : If you want to change the direction of the metal, you heat it. Then you forge it under the heat. It’s is melted and then it is permanently changed. But if you just bend it, it will spring back to its original shape or else it will break.

    e.g.Spouses will bend themselves out of mechanical compliance. “OK, honey, don’t leave me.” And then later, they will slide back to their original shape, or else they are so galled by the unnaturalness of the changes that they break.

    e.g.Christmas tree cut down – When we decorated it, it looked so much better than in nature – lights, gold and red. Give it about 5 weeks and it will look a lot worse. It is dead.

    Do you have a vital connection that transforms you from the inside? If you have that, then fruit is inevitable.

    To Christians: It is typical at first to move into mechanical compliance. All of the focus is on serving, instead of friendship. You get busy doing things: helping people, go to classes, get rid of big sins. What you think, “surely God must love me”. You are inferring the love of God (because you’re busy) instead of experiencing the love of God and drawing on it. Very little true fruit is because you are not drawing from God.

    To Not Christians: What will I have to give up to be a Christian? You think No sex before marriage, have to tithe. You are making Christianity way too hard and way too easy. You are making it way too hard because you are really thinking that you have to clean your life up. Does the branch get the vine because it is fruitful? Of course not. The branch gets fruitful because it gets the life from the vine. Without me, you can do nothing. The only way to really become a Christian is to get grafted in. You do not have anything to recommend yourself.

    You are also making it way too easy. Jesus does not want your money, sex. Do you know what I want? C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity: I want you. I have come to kill your ordinary self. I will give you a new self. I will give you my self. Jesus is saying, “I want to become your reason for doing everything. I want to be your life, to give up the right to yourself, to give up the right to call the shots in your life, to give up the right to decide what is right and wrong.”

    When Jesus says this, he is saying “When the knife comes into your life, and when things that you wanted get taken off, or when things that you put your heart on, get removed, or the dream is gone, if you look at them with the untutored eye and you say, ‘This is a pointless waste. There is no reason why I should lost that person, etc. These things should not have happened to me.’ Jesus is saying, You don’t understand gardening. There is not one thing that I take out of your life that wouldn’t have been A LOSS TO KEEP AND A GAIN TO LOSE. My Father is the gardener.”

    Somerset Maugham quote, worked in a hospital: “There is a school that believes in the moral value of suffering. … They claim that it increases sympathy and opens the spirit to new avenues of beauty and strength and character, but I see that suffering did not ennoble, it degraded. It made people selfish, mean, petty and suspicious. It absorbed them in small things. It did not make them more human, but less.” He’s right. Jesus is saying the knife comes on to every branch. BUT, If you are hooked into me, the same troubles that happen to everybody’s life, the troubles won’t make you hard they will make you soft. They won’t make you less human, they will make you more human.

    Jesus Christ was cut off so that you will only be cut back.

    C.S. Lewis – from Screwtape Letters – If we are disappointed when things don’t go well, God is forcing us to a higher level. We have not the slightest idea what God means to make of us. We are a House – he is building a different house than we expected. We thought we wanted a little cottage. He is building a palace. He means to live in it himself.

    1. diane–really SO thankful for your notes–i didn’t get mine typed-i loved this too: “I (Jesus) am absolutely with all of my power and being engaged to one goal: to make you a person of greatness, to give you the same incredible glory that I have and to bring my beauty into your life so that you will be a beautiful person too. I am committed to your greatness. ALL of my power is committed to making you a person of greatness and dealing with every flaw, every weakness in your life – your holiness, and your happiness, and your purity and your beauty.”

      I was thinking–If this were not so, how could we draw upon Him–but because He is fully committed to that purpose in us, He gives us Life to draw upon.

  24. 7. Read Song of Song 2:13-17.

    A. What does the bridegroom ask of the bride in verse 13? What might this cost in your life?

    The bridegroom says, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!”

    My first thought is, if my bridegroom spoke these words to me – what wouldn’t I do?! He doesn’t just say, “Come on, hurry up, let’s get going!” He calls her my darling, my beautiful one. It’s a tender invitation to come away with him.

    To respond this way to the Lord Jesus would mean it may cost me some sleep, so I can arise early and spend time with Him; or putting aside my to-do list, my wants, my desires. I think, even though the request is put so tenderly, it requires a submissive heart to respond, a desire to return His love by wanting to please Him, and allowing Him to be the Leader and not me trying to be.

    B. Where is she, according to verse 14, and what does he want of her? What does this mean?

    “In the clefts of the rock, in the secret place of the steep pathway.” Hmm…he has asked her to come with him, they are on a path that is going upward, it’s steep; there are clefts or crags in the rocks, secret, hidden places. He asks to see her form, or appearance, and to hear her voice, he says “for your voice is sweet, and your form is lovely.”
    He wants to be alone with her, away from other people and away from distractions. The only one he wants to see and hear is her. He calls her “a dove, in the clefts of the rock”. This seems to indicate a shyness in her, an unsureness? of herself, perhaps fear of full self-disclosure of herself to him. He tries to reassure her to trust him fully.
    I’m also wondering if her being like a dove, protected in the rocky crags pictures her purity, her virginity, that she has kept herself protected and pure for her husband?

    C. What enemy lurks if she does not respond to him and come higher with him according to verse 15?

    “the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards”. I’m picturing these newlyweds, at the height of their romantic love – the honeymoon phase (“our vineyards are in bloom”), they’re just beginning their life together. But if they don’t learn to trust each other, and sacrifice their own selfish desires for the good of the other, then the little foxes could be things like selfishness, lack of respect, miscommunication and misunderstanding.

    D. What does she tell him to do according to verse 17?

    It sounds like a fancy way to tell him “not now”, go away! “Until the cool of the day when the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle…”
    But, she calls him “my beloved”, so it doesn’t sound like she’s being mean. I’m not sure what this means!

  25. 6e. He is the friend who gave His life for me. There is no greater love than this. I did not choose Him but He chose me. I must obey His commands but not blindly as a slave. I have a part in the Father’s work in that He has revealed to me what He is doing. I have His word and Jesus’ life to show me who God is and what He is doing.

    The part that quickens me is verse 15. “I do not call you slaves anymore” This means that we were once slaves, to the law and to sin. Obedience was commanded to preserve life but we did not really know the heart of the Father. Maybe this is why it was so hard for the Israelites to obey. Oh but when Jesus came! As Keller said in last week’s sermon, His life revealed to us the Father. His words gave us understanding of His love. We became part of the work of God, not as slaves but as friends. He says that we should go out and produce fruit. This sounded like a command but as I park here and understand something of His heart, I think it is a privilege. He has my heart. I am part of His mission. This is what it is to be a friend and not a slave.

    Finally, in verse 17 He says to love one another. How can we not when we know His heart? Yet He commands it because we forget. We get caught up by our own sinful nature and petty irritations.

    I think He longs for us to share in His work by bearing fruit and the greatest of that fruit is simply to love. This is the fruit we are seeing in each other. Kim, I think of you especially here. Did you share that you came from a very legalistic background? Now you are basking in His love and it is overflowing, spilling over onto those around you. How beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Anne. Yes, I came out of what I would call extreme legalism.

  26. 8. Share your notes from the sermon

    Growth is a fact, it is a possibility. Jesus says, I appointed you to bear fruit.
    Verse 16, Romans 8. Jesus is saying everything I have done in order to break into your life is for one purpose-your fruit. I am absolutely engaged with one goal, to make you a person of greatness-to bring my beauty into your life so that you will be a beautiful person too.

    Some Christians are pessimistic about being able to change and are hard for others to live with and are grieving the heart of God-leaving those things they think can never change undisturbed.

    Give up your small ambitions for your own character.

    Organic Change: Organic change through an internal dynamic, not mechanical compliance through external force.
    External force can restrain the heart without changing it from inside, without any change of life.

    It is typical when you first get into Christianity you move into mechanical compliance instead of organic change. All the focus is on serving Jesus instead of friendship with Jesus. When you first become a Christian you are saved by Grace, but it is hard for the human heart to believe that. So when you first become a Christian you help people, you do things, you get rid of juicy sins, help people. You are saying, surely God must love me if I am doing all of this. You are inferring the love of God instead of experiencing the love of God. You are inferring instead of drawing on it.

    A lot of Christians think they are experiencing the love of God but they are inferring it.

    Second counseling story: The woman whose counselor told her to find her joy in something other than her family. The same knife cut her and she realized she couldn’t do that because it would end the same. She began to pray, she let her words stay in her-she listened to Him more-she began to pray more for him, for reality-she drew more on the love of the Lord.

    Jesus was cut off so that you would only be cut back. This lady began to realize how much harder it was for Jesus to be cut off for us.

    Jesus was cut off so you would be cut back. The more she thought of what he did for her, she said if you can do this for me surely I can do this for you. That is drawing from him, friendship, remaining in his love, drawing her joy from him. The knife made her draw and made her into something really great.

    God is forcing us onward and upward to a higher level. He is putting us in places where we will have to be more braver, patient, more loving than we would ever be before. It seems unnecessary but that is because we have no idea what he wants to make of us. God is building a palace, not a cottage.

    I am the vine you are the branches I have appointed you for greatness.

  27. Comment on Keller’s sermon:

    I loved how Keller brought out in the sermon how we can so easily think in the deepest of our heart that surely Jesus can’t change this in my life! I often see us act in such a way where we say He can change us, yet the fruit in our life isn’t there and there isn’t really even small changes going on. I think it is because we can use the excuse of-well it is a process-change doesn’t happen over night..yes it is a process, but sometimes I think that is a good way to put off abiding in Him. We forget who He is! He is the great I Am and the VINE! The one who by his voice put the universe into existence and we think He can’t forge change on any strongholds in our lives-selfishness, stubbornness, controlling, etc..We forget we are all under the same knife and we forget the reason why. As Keller so greatly put it:

    “God is forcing us onward and upward to a higher level. He is putting us in places where we will have to be more braver, patient, more loving than we would ever be before. It seems unnecessary but that is because we have no idea what he wants to make of us. God is building a palace, not a cottage. I am the vine you are the branches I have appointed you for greatness.”

      1. Oh yes, and my do I, well we all need it-yet I too like the word picture of the palace-it reminds me of His love in the midst of the pruning process.

    1. Amen, Dee.

    2. Beautiful, Dee.

    3. Dee,
      How wonderful to see you being ministered to by the “tender Tender of the vine”.

  28. My takeaway will be, I hope, an even deeper trust.

    Trust that He knows what He is doing, I don’t need to second guess God.

    Elizabeth’s quote from John Owen will stick with me;
    “The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that He loves you.”

    As will the example of Hudson Taylors life as an illustration of what abiding means and what it looks like lived out.

    I want to deepen my relationship with Christ, to sit at His feet more, to trust & follow Him when He calls me to.

    Even though Susan’s questions were painful to contemplate again, it drives deeper into me the truth that God owes me nothing, I am a recipient of fantastic grace. None of the gifts I have the benefit of in this life belong to me, everything belongs to Him and I have enjoyed so many good things from His hand. I have noticed things this week, the color of the grass, the sunrise through the trees, the taste of an orange, in fresh, thankful sort of way, it has been awhile since I have felt this.

    That Peggy Noonan quote Keller from one of our recent Keller sermons about this world being the short brutish one, reminds me that God see all of time, not just the now. When the extreme pain of loss overwhelms me, (like yesterday when a pair of his socks somehow turned up in the wash) I can see that Daniel is not truly gone, just gone ahead, my life seems shorter and shorter all the time. I have a hope & a future.

    1. oh chris, socks. that just gripped my heart–wish i could have just hugged you then–love what you did with the thoughts though

    2. ‘Not gone, just gone ahead.’ This is beautiful Chris, yet it makes me cry.

    3. Chris, so I loved this to being with which made me want to read on: I hope, an even deeper trust.

      Oh Chris, the socks brought me to tears- He is taking you higher, deeper-the truths you are living out and embracing about your hope and a future are so ministering to us.

    4. Chris, so I re-read this and tears started to flow while I am eating my early lunch..glancing at the picture of you and Daniel at the same time..hearing how God is meeting you now and remembering when you first came on-how could any of us forget as we had the privilege of your transparency in your grief and then the honor of joining together lifting you up in prayer.

      I don’t know for sure but I do think it is possible Daniel wanted this for you-to have you come here to this well and be where you are at now-and might just be rejoicing with the Lord right now-yet I know that doesn’t resolve those waves of pain that come. From what I am learning from you and Dee the pain can come in overwhelming waves at times-maybe even surprise you. I wish this were a face to face study-would love to give you a huge hug.

      As you said- Daniel has gone ahead, and through this process in the mystery of the whys, and the monstrous pain of loss you have welcomed God in and He has given you a taste of the hope that lies ahead-your gaze is in the right place-you’ve come out of the cleft.

    5. Love the socks in laundry, God is caring gently for you.

    6. Chris, I see such beauty in you as you steadfastly turn your face to the Lord in your pain.

    7. Oh Chris, I’m praising God that you are starting to feel hope and comfort now.

  29. 7. He rejoices in the fruit of the earth. This may be a metaphor for the fruit of love, but it also indicates work in harvesting. Not sure which and maybe both. He calls her to come away with him. He is rejoicing in her beauty. Is she hiding in verse 14? At first I thought he was calling her to a private place where they could talk but I think he is calling her out from among the rocks. Oh my! I remember the picture of the stony heart! He is calling her to drop the walls of protection, be open and vulnerable before Him. He asks her to stop trying to cover herself before Him. I remember learning in Stonecutter that idolatry is not only loving things more than Him, but also an attempt to cover myself. Verse 15 asks for protection from foxes that spoil the vines. I am not sure exactly how foxes spoil vines but this indicates that the grapes are not yet ripe so I don’t think they are eating the grapes yet. It must be that they break the vines and cut off the flow of sap or perhaps they knock off the blooms. Thinking back on verses in John about what happens to a branch that is broken off. It does not bear fruit. Our job is to keep the sap flowing so we come away with Him. In my life it means that I leave worldly desires and obligations to be with Him. In this way I do not allow the foxes. My first thoughts on 17 were all wrong. I agree that she is asking him to go without her. But I am puzzled about the reference to a gazelle on divided mountains. She asks him to be like a gazelle on divided mountains. It makes me think of my divided heart, the result of my sin nature which gives me that bent toward idolatry. I wonder if she wants Him to just ‘fix’ that for her so that she does not have to let go of her idols.

  30. 9. My take away for this week. (WELL, ongoing for the last two or more years!)

    I don’t know how to fit this in, but will just tell you-there are two pruning things going on in my life now-one with my boys and one with my husband. Because of His pruning he is turning these struggles into something beautiful over time. Here is what He is showing me.

    One thing is my sweet husband loves Jesus but I sense he is mechanically trying to change. Some of the changes I think are real ones from Him abiding in the Vine, but sometimes it is mechanical-and more so lately because he works so much. Yet this is a huge pruning tool in my life toward Jesus building patience and unconditional love in me. He is using this to turn selfishness into selfless love.

    I feel the sting and the cut and the mess from the pruning scissors almost daily. Yet, because of His mercy, He allowed me to stay in the cleft of the rock until I found out the things I ran to couldn’t satisfy. He called me out and is taking me closer in and higher up. I am turning to Him more and more -He is becoming more and more my satisfaction and joy. As a result I am being able to love my husband more.

    While there are still moments of selfishness, of temptation to pull back, I am learning to replace the desire of going back into the cleft of the rock with the desire to show Jesus my face and let Him have me. I have always ‘known’ Jesus is more than trustworthy-He is creator-He is all powerful-yet it is only with pruning that this becomes ever so real in my life. I am finding lately when my husband goes back to the way he was after a mechanical change-I know who my true husband is and therefore can put my earthly husband in his rightful place and love him with God’s love.

    I don’t want to go back into the cleft! He is my rock and He has shown me great mercy. I trust He loves me and loves my form, my face, my voice-He loves me so much He died for me so he could gently, but firmly take and hold my hand and make my feet like hinds feet and go to the higher places with Him.

  31. Oh, I forgot about the boys-how he is pruning me..Sorry for the book, I will make this short:

    Isaac, my one with autism, for the first time is spending this weekend at a hosts’ home at church for D-Now (Discipleship Now). After I dropped him and Elijah off last night I began to worry about him, so I called the hosts home and told his wife he may need some help. I went to bed, woke up in the middle of the night, eyes wide open and -WORRY flooded over me-red flag! So, I knew I had a choice. I knew this was a fox in my vineyard, so I prayed..God brought to mind I was forgetting Him-who He is, so I started praising Him for who He is and released this to Him trusting Isaac in His hands-He is taking me deeper in and by His grace I can say with Dee’s friend Rachel that trials are becoming more and more my friends because that is His pruning and His pruning me is more of Him loving me.

    1. Love how you turned away from imagining the worst.
      2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
      Rebecca, we are not coming to KC at this time so we will have to meet on another visit.

      1. Great verse, Kim. Good fighting against that fox of worry/panic, Rebecca. Praise the Lord!

  32. 7. Read Song of Songs 2:13-17 (Challenge passage — do your best) Often today Song of Songs is applied only to earthly marriage, but it must also be applied to our relationship with our heavenly bridegroom.) Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, comments on this passage, and I’ll paraphrase him at the end. But do your best before you read his interpretation — and apply this to you and Jesus.

    A. What does the bridegroom ask of the bride in verse 13? What might this cost in your life?

    He asks the bride to lay down her life for him. I don’t think it literally means giving your life, although it might, however, I do think it means we daily take care of each other. It would “cost” us our focus on ourselves.
     

    1. A. I was reading the wrong verse for the SofSoloman scripture…..so I’ll try again for A.

      He wants her to come with him and it would cost her giving up her own life expectations.

      B. Where is she, according to verse 14, and what does he want of her? What does this mean?

      She is hiding from him. He wants her to show her face, to hear her voice, and to be with him. He wants her to talk and to enjoy each others company; to spend time together.

      C. What enemy lurks if she does not respond to him and come higher with him according to verse 15?

      The fox lurks ? Not sure I’m getting all of this…..a fox is a carnivore who is sneaky and hunts for food. Does this mean something is hunting her and might devour her if she doesn’t go with him? I think the vineyards represent the life they have built together.

      D. What does she tell him to do according to verse 17?

      She tells him to leave? I’m thinking she wants to wait until things are just right to make a commitment? Since I am reading this out if context, I may not be getting it. I am not familiar with this book of the Bible.

       

  33. Ok so my take away, It does not matter where you are located, God is able to be reflected wherever He stations you and I hope that is what we are doing here as we are attached to the vine. Also that a major purge is happening at our home as soon as I get back, already spoke to the kids and they are ok I think…We dont miss anything at the house while being at the hotel.

    1. I smiled at this, Dee….yes, I think of pruning my perennials, I do it to make them more beautiful and get rid of those ugly “deadheads”. Reminds me of He is the Potter and we are the clay…of course He’s not smashing, stomping on, squishing that clay as hard as He can with His teeth gritted – “I’ll make something out of you yet!”.
      Pruning is not punishment. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

  34. I’ve been asking the Lord to help me word my take away-a simple word so I can type less! Dee just said it for me: “pruning is never punishment, because Jesus took that. No more punishment for us”. His pruning is not because we did something wrong–it is in order that we may bear more fruit, be more like Him–it HAS to be motivated by Love because ALL HE DOES IS MOTIVATED BY LOVE.
    And too what Chris said above–and I think Keller said in last week’s sermon–God hates the suffering. He hates sickness, and He hates the pain Chris’ family has suffered. He hates the pain we suffer in relationships–the hurts from family discord…all of the results of the Fall. But He is greater, and He is restoring, redeeming. I cannot even let myself imagine losing a child–no grace for my imagination–but I can only get my Life now from clinging to the Vine…learning more and more of Who He is and what His character is, so that I can know, more and more in the deepest parts of my soul, all He does is for love.

    1. Did you share Elizabeth about your recent Dr visit? I wonder if you did and I missed it?

      1. oh Chris, you amaze me. I was scheduled for an EMG and Nerve conduction study last Thursday–but it was going to be over $2000, out of pocket–I just didn’t have peace. I am frugal at my core, and yet I know my health is important–anyway, just watching it daily. With how off my thyroid had gotten, I’m hoping once the adjustment in meds really kicks in, at least the circulation problems will get better. Thank you so much for asking–your heart humbles me.

  35. My take away:

    This quote from Keller’s sermon hit me and I’ll explain below why, “I (Jesus) am absolutely with all of my power and being engaged to one goal: to make you a person of greatness, to give you the same incredible glory that I have and to bring my beauty into your life so that you will be a beautiful person too. I am committed to your greatness. ALL of my power is committed to making you a person of greatness and dealing with every flaw, every weakness in your life – your holiness, and your happiness, and your purity and your beauty.”

    And now, Dee’s statement just above and Elizabeth’s beautiful elaboration of it just now: “Dee just said it for me: “PRUNING IS NEVER PUNISHMENT, because Jesus took that. No more punishment for us”. His pruning is not because we did something wrong–it is in order that we may bear more fruit, be more like Him–it HAS to be motivated by Love because ALL HE DOES IS MOTIVATED BY LOVE. And too what Chris said above–and I think Keller said in last week’s sermon–God hates the suffering. He hates sickness, and He hates the pain Chris’ family has suffered. He hates the pain we suffer in relationships–the hurts from family discord…all of the results of the Fall. But He is greater, and He is restoring, redeeming.”

    All I can say is WOW! I have been struggling rather hard with depression all week. There are some disagreements in our church right now that have the potential to bring about our resigning from the church and our moving again. Maybe not, but the possibility is there. I HATE MOVING! Several past moves have been extremely painful for me, and the mere possibility of moving pulls me into emotional crisis. At first, when the depression hit, it was hard for me to pinpoint what was bothering me. But then with prayer and Scripture I recognized this deeper issue of moving – and how it is a HUGE security idol for me. Keller’s words point out that Jesus sees me as a person of greatness and beauty. Jesus is totally committed to doing good to me. So Keller’s words (“ALL of my [Jesus’] power is committed to making you a person of greatness and dealing with every flaw, every weakness in your life – your holiness, and your happiness, and your purity and your beauty.”) could not be more timely for the TRUTH that I need to hear from God. He loves me and as Elizabeth put it, “His pruning is not because we did something wrong–it is in order that we may bear more fruit, be more like Him–it HAS to be motivated by Love because ALL HE DOES IS MOTIVATED BY LOVE.”

    Thank you Keller, Dee, and Elizabeth for speaking such words of hope and life into my life.

    1. oh dear Diane–this church stuff sounds SO hard. I know how hard those things can be–I will be especially praying for you dear friend. And the possibility of moving, oh my. Yes, this is HUGE. I will keep you in my prayers.

    2. Diane–this just felt heavy on my heart and I want to pray here for you.
      Lord, we ask that You would bring peace and resolution in Diane’s church. Lord, You know the details, You know the hurts, You know the hearts. We ask Lord that You would work in this situation and there would be healing. I pray You would be lifted up and glorified in this. I pray too, for Diane and her husband–that You would give them wisdom and peace. Thank You for covering Diane, for lifting her from the pit and for the faith she has in clinging to You, the True Vine. Amen~

      1. Amen Elizabeth! Thank you for praying. I would like to add also. Lord, I pray that You will be very near to Diane right now and to her husband also. May they be knitted together with You and strengthened for the days ahead. We don’t know what is in store for them but we know that You are good and You will bring good from it. We ask for truth and love to abound in this body for we know this is Your will. We ask these things in Jesus name. Amen

        1. Thanks so much for your prayers. I feel loved by God and by you women here. There may be hard pruning days ahead, but I know I am His and under His care. God’s purpose is for my very best. I need to learn to believe that at the deepest part of my soul.

        2. That’s right Diane. As we better understand His heart for us we can rest in Him. I know that you will believe it because He will finish this good work that He has begun in you.

    3. It is rich to see you Diane applying truth to your soul during difficult circumstances. I pray for perfect peace for your soul.

    4. Praying for you, Diane. So glad these truths came to you in such a timely way, right when you needed them!

    5. Praying, dear Diane.

  36. I listened to the free sermon first and it was good.
    Notes:
    Fruit of the Spirit in the believer is gradual, inevitable, internal, and symetrical.
    Paul uses the word fruit evoking a metaphor of botanical growth. Growth is so small and slow it is mysterious, not dramatic. Look at fruit trees – very slow. Sometimes invisible. This tells us we must be patient.
    If you are a believer you will produce fruit, growth.
    He showed the difference between organic – internal and mechanical growth – doing good things but must have love.

    Will finish later. Sorry I am being called away.

  37. Sermon notes con’t…

    Real christian change: If you are doing great things serving in the church and peoples lives are being changed because of you but you are not growing you must fly to Him. Change must be internal.
    Peace is always based on humility. Worry is always a refusal of humility. Anxiety is arrogance. Peace based on self (pride)will pass away and is not real.
    Real self control comes from joy. You get addicted to things b/c of a lack of joy. Joy creates self control. Counterfeit self control is not from humility. Men think they are self controlled when they don’t cry. The reason boys don’t cry as much as girls is b/c someone told them to quit acting like a girl therefore they became self controlled and arrogant/superior to girls. Self control through arrogance is rigid and doesn’t last.
    Concatenation of the graces. They always go together. They connect or link in a series or chain.
    Integrity is a person who is the same everywhere they go.
    Its self righteous to be naive or cynical and both are a lack of symmetry.
    How do you develop the fruit of the spirit? Crucify the sinful natures with its over-desires and learn to lust for Jesus. Keep in step with the spirit. The spirit lusts for Jesus. These are the 2 things needed to grow in grace. If you are lacking the fruit of the spirit you aren’t seeing how beautiful Christ is. Open yourself to the gardener. Pant after the spirit.

    1. Thanks for sharing your notes from the second sermon. I think I need to listen to that one too.

  38. 9. What is your take-a-way for the week and why?
    I loved studying the Song of Songs again and refreshing my memory of Him seeing me as beautiful. Calling me away with Him to higher ground. I love that God and I are intertwined and He is able to keep my connected to the vine. I love seeing God is the vine-dresser and Jesus as the vine. That Jesus was cut so that I wouldn’t be cut off – the gospel is so beautifully interwoven throughout scripture. My prayer today comes from the second sermon: Lord, keep my eyes on your beauty so that I may crucify my over-desires and pant after the Holy Spirit.

  39. my take away is that I love HIM and HE loves me and that is enough, and that love is not a feeling but fruit only the father can grow in me.
    I also will always think of the vs. 11 He prunes me so that HIS joy will be in me and that my JOY may be complete! its not punishment its HIM knowing what is best for us and us being willing to except it from him.
    surrender surrender surrender……joy joy joy
    the more i control the more joy is sucked out of my life.
    hold all I have with one open hand and not two clenched fists.
    and my last take away from this week is that I really do love all of you so much! I wish we could all get together and love on each other for a weekend! thank you Dee for creating this envirnment for us all to grow in, its such a blessing to us all.

    1. I love this post Cyndi, it is so true that the more I try to control the less joy I feel, and I too wish we could all meet, I add my thanks to Cyndi’s Dee!

  40. This reminds me of my feelings about Chris’s discovery of Daniels socks in the laundry. Her words brought me sadness and joy at the same time.

    “”[There is] a time for mourning, a time for dancing” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). But mourning and dancing are never fully separated. Their “times” do not necessarily follow each other. In fact, their “times” may become one “time.” Mourning may turn into dancing and dancing into mourning without showing a clear point where one ends and the other starts.

    Often our grief allows us to choreograph our dance while our dance creates the space for our grief. We lose a beloved friend, and in the midst of our tears we discover an unknown joy. We celebrate a success, and in the midst of the party we feel deep sadness. Mourning and dancing, grief and laughter, sadness and gladness – they belong together as the sad-faced clown and the happy-faced clown, who make us both cry and laugh. Let’s trust that the beauty of our lives becomes visible where mourning and dancing touch each other.”
    Henri Nouwen~

    I would appreciate prayer as I make a decision about bsf for next year, Genesis. I am having trouble keeping up with both. This study has to stay but I think face to face is so important but I would like to devote more time here.

    1. Lord, I lift up Anne to You and ask that You would give her wisdom about whether to proceed with BSF for next year. Thank You for her heart’s desire–to grow more in You and enjoy fellowship. I pray You will make the path clear to her Lord, open her ears to hear You. And Father, too, I continue to lift up Your Joey–I pray You will lead Him and guide Him–that He would be all You created him to be, for Your purpose and glory. In Your Name~

      1. Thank you Elizabeth. Praying for you too. I miss your comments and it is nice to know that you are there praying for us.

      2. Amen to this prayer. We REALLY want you here Anne!

    2. I was relieved when you stated this study has to stay!

      Your thoughts about mourning & dancing are true, I feel both more joy and more sadness as I have surrendered further & somehow the emotions intensify each other.

      1. Chris S. and Anne, your thoughts on mourning and dancing have given me pause to ponder. “I feel both more joy and more sadness as I have surrendered further & somehow the emotions intensify each other.” There is truth to this that I had not thought of before, and yet I sense the deep truth of it. Somehow surrender to the Lord brings both more sadness and more joy, a dance that I do not comprehend. Perhaps that is because of our awareness of both our individual sin and the falleness of the world combined with the utter awe of Christ’s love expressed most fully by His sacrifice on the Cross. Yet I will be glad when “all tears will be wiped away”, though I cannot picture that state from where I stand now.

    3. Beautiful Henri Nouwen quote. And, as for your decision regarding bsf (is that Bible Study Fellowship?), I for one would really miss you here. Your perspective is so beautiful and helpful to me personally.

    4. Anne–seeing all the please for you to stay and in my prayer, I didn’t even mention it because I assumed that was a given–you have to stay here! 😉 love you anne~

      1. Elizabeth & Diane, I was not thinking that I should give up this one. At several other times I had planned to do that because I thought that I should not give up the face to face study. Then for a while I tried to figure out which one I get the most out of. Well they compliment each other which I think is so cool. The time to make a decision about Bible Study Fellowship is coming up and I thought maybe I should not commit and that is why I asked for prayer. I am about to decide that I should continue with both. This is my season for study and growth. The Lord will show me when it is time for something else. I may have a little bit of Type A in me after all for I do stress about getting all of my questions done. That is really the source of the question. Yet every week I manage to get them all done. That is the Lord.

        I am so thankful for your love and affirmation. This may not be face to face but it has become so very important to me. It is something new and wonderful.

        1. Oh, I am so glad you are staying. I too have two Bible studies going on and find it hard to keep up. Each is important. The face to face one is ministry as well as fellowship, but, oh, the fellowship here is such a gift. It meets a deep need for kindred spirits. “The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.” And, by the way, have any of you ever heard of “Anne of Green Gables”? It is a girls’ book set in Prince Edward Island, Canada and is about an orphan girl being adopted and finding a kindred spirit. It’s a favourite of mine (and not just because I used to live in PEI). If you like children`s literature, you will like it. It`s very popular here in Canada, but probably not known in the US.

        2. It’s my 8 yr old’s FAVORITE–and her fav. thing to do is read, so that says a lot! Now I can tell her I have a friend who used to live there 🙂

        3. I love Anne of Green Gables too! another legacy that my Mom handed down, And we the women of Dee’s studies are becoming bosom friends!

        4. Diane, I had not thought of this until now but this is a perfect place for you to have the support of friends. I remember thinking how hard it can be for pastor’s wives to have friends because of some women feeling left out in the congregation.

          Anne of Green Gables is quite popular here. It is on my ‘to read’ list, which is on hold right now.

          My sister and I are planning a trip to Nova Scotia in September. I am so excited about it. We will go up through the Shenandoah valley and across through New York City to Rhode Island where we grew up, then up the coast and ferry to NS, back to Niagara and up to Toronto then south through the Catskills and back through Shenandoah to where they live in western NC. I can’t remember what part of Canada you are in. Any chance it is Toronto?

        5. Oh 81 doesn’t go through the mountains of New York. Have more planning to do. Maybe we should go to Montreal instead.

        6. Oh, oh, oh, Anne. I live in the province of New Brunswick, which is where you would have to drive through to get from Nova Scotia to Montreal or Toronto or even Maine. I live only 15 minutes from the Trans Canada highway that connects Nova Scotia to the rest of Canada. I am less than an hour from Fredericton. Google it and you will find ME! What part of NS are you planning to visit? I would love to see you!! This is soo exciting.

        7. Diane, can you email me at a f a l z o n e @ g m a i l . c o m?

        8. A & D-just the thought of this for you 2 lifts my spirit right now–praying it can work out for you

        9. I had never heard of Anne of Green Gables until I was in my 20’s and our PBS station had a mini series of it. I absolutely love it!!

        10. This is so great that all you women know Anne of Green Gables. I didn’t realize it would be so well known in the US. Kindred spirits, indeed.

  41. Listened to both sermons today! Excellent. More to add, but hand is numb. (Studying about pruning motivated me to whack down a hedge!)

    1. You`re a riot, Renee. 🙂 Take care of that hand!

  42. 9. We pruned my beautiful azaleas last fall (the ones in my avatar picture). Alfred cut them back to nothing. I was worried that they would not survive. In each one there were a few sprigs left. As spring has come I see that there is still life in them, hope of a return of that glorious beauty that they were. My take away is an understanding that the pruning comes to every life. The determining factor of whether I survive or become a dead branch is my choice. Life will remain in me if I stay connected to the Vine. Will I keep His commands? I determine now that I will always.

    1. Any word Anne on Joey and the mission trip?

    2. Chris, I have left it in the Lord’s hands. I have asked Christopher to invite Joey and I have not brought it up. We sat behind him this morning at church but Joey left before Christopher could talk to him. Still I am leaving it in God’s hands. It will be a miracle if Joey accepts the invitation, so we will see.

      1. What may happen is that Joey says yes to Christopher to be polite, thinking it could never happen. Little does he know….

  43. I finished listening to “I Am the Vine”, on John 15:1-17. Here are some things from my notes which stood out to me.

    Every bookstore is filled with books on how to change, but they are mechanical books that say here’s the technique, or they’re morality books, or magical books that say tap into your own source of power. The Bible, Christianity, is none of that. It transcends that.
    It says you need a vital relationship with Jesus, and you draw on His pulsating life like a branch draws on a vine.

    Give up your small ambitions for your own character.

    Keller gave a great example of mechanical compliance through external force in the case of the husband who changes so his wife wont leave him. External force can restrain the heart, make the heart comply, without changing it from the inside, without any real change of life.

    There are two kinds of branches attached to the vine, to the external eye, they both look connected. But some are fruitful, others not. Why? Because some that look externally connected, internally, there’s no life going from the vine to the branch.

    It is very typical, when a new Christian, to move into all kinds of mechanical compliance instead of organic change, because you put all your focus on busyness and serving Jesus instead of friendship with Jesus. You hear and embrace that you are saved by grace, not by works, yet it’s very hard for the human heart to believe that. So you get busy.
    You are inferring the love of God instead of experiencing the love of God.
    It takes time to get this!

    Does the branch say to the vine, “Hey, I’m being fruitful, would you please hook up with me?” Of course not.

    Christianity is both harder and easier than what you were trying to do. You’re going to be asked to make Jesus the reason you get out of bed in the morning, to make Him your very life, your Vine.

    I liked Keller’s explanation of pruning. That the knife comes onto every branch, the same knife to every branch. But Jesus says, if you are hooked into Me, the same troubles, evils, and bad things that happen to everybody in this life wont make you hard, but soft; not inhuman, but human. They will make you wise, great. If you are not connected to me, the same knife will cut you off.

    Great example of the two women – he gave this in another sermon as well. The one did not just enjoy her son, her son was her joy. He had become her vine. The woman who forgave began drawing on that life of Jesus; His love, friendship, getting to know Him. She prayed more, listened to Him in the Word more, instead of getting busy “doing”.

    Jesus was cut off so that you would only be cut back. The forgiving woman realized that though her situation was hard, what Jesus went through for her was even harder. If He could do this for her, then she could “hang in there” in her situation for HIm.

    Loved the Lewis quotes, about Him building a palace. Made me think of a verse we studied several weeks ago about how He is “renovating” us.

    9. What’s your take-away for the week and why?

    I really liked how we explored and dug into the meaning of pruning. OUr discussion here helped me, and so did the sermon. What I learned is this, that the “knife” that cuts, that prunes, opens up a “channel” in me so that I may draw into myself His life. If I was just hanging on the vine, enjoying life going smoothly all the time, I’d have a tendency to forget about the Vine, to maybe think I was flourishing all on my own. But there’s nothing like living in a fallen world, and my own sin, to make me see how much I need His love, His friendship, His sacrifice on the Cross for me, His reality in my everyday life.
    I take-away that pruning is not punishing me. God is not coming at me viciously with the knife in His hand. Although I think Satan tries to do that with his evil. But even when the evilness of this fallen world that is under Satan’s control causes me to suffer, my Father’s hands are on me, and He will carefully prune and heal grow me. The best thing is that because I belong to Him, I can’t be cut off.

    Paul said it best:

    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than
    conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
    neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither
    height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from
    the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

    1. Susan–your notes so blessed me this week–thank you for posting this

  44. I fell behind in the study here. The fox for me came last week: distraction. Distracted from abiding in Him. As a result, I see that this week I’m not displaying the Fruit of the Spirit.

    Appreciate so much your comments and insight that you all shared.

    A few things I got out of this study:
    John 15:2&6. Dead branches are cut off and branches not attached to the vine are thrown into the fire. If you are being pruned then you are alive and fruitful, He prunes to keep us growing, alive, and fruitful. Appreciated Keller’s thoughts on bearing His fruit. “if the Spirit of God is in your life…you will grow and be fruitful. Can’t have fruitless faith.” (my paraphrase) Also appreciated this statement by Keller: “The Gardener creates the conditions to allow the seed to grow.” This begs the question: Am I a faithful to create the conditions that allow the seed in others to grow? The answer is yes, when I am abiding in the Master Gardener.

    John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” Reminds me of adoption. He woos us to Him with His love. His love meant laying down His life. He role modeled His love and asked us to go and love others with His love. It is by and through His love in and through us that others will see and know Him – others will love Him too.

    I needed this study time today. Thankful to be back!

  45. Dear Dee,the kids holding tree image is so beautiful we use it for our magazine cover. The magazine which is distributed as free magazine is called Madani, by DSM-Dompet Sosial Madani (Dompet = wallet, Sosial = social, Madani = civilization/society). DSM tagline is “Care for Harmony”. This instituion is established under the Dinas Sosial (Dinas Sosial = Social Services) and legalized by the Ministry of Law and Human Rights of Indonesia Government. DSM is a social organization helping the poor throughout Bali, Indonesia, which consist of people of many cultural and religious background. We use the image because the magazine theme is about encourage people with wealth in giving valuables (we call it, wakaf) such as house, vehicles, land, money or whatever it is that can be productive which products will be distributed to help the poor, so, the concept is like doing something simple for something bigger, like planting and nurture a tree and then harvest. One of many examples, DSM has been managing a donated house as a health clinic which provides free medical check-up and medicine for poor people of, even helping women giving birth. Once again, I would like to thank you for the beautiful image.

  46. Dear Dee,the kids holding tree image is so beautiful we use it for our magazine cover. The magazine which is distributed as free magazine is called Madani, by DSM-Dompet Sosial Madani (Dompet = wallet, Sosial = social, Madani = civilization/society). DSM tagline is “Care for Harmony”. This instituion is established under the Dinas Sosial (Dinas Sosial = Social Services) and legalized by the Ministry of Law and Human Rights of Indonesia Government. DSM is a social organization helping the poor throughout Bali, Indonesia, which consist of people of many cultural and religious background. We use the image because the magazine theme is about encourage people with wealth in giving valuables (we call it, wakaf) such as house, vehicles, land, money or whatever it is that can be productive which products will be distributed to help the poor, so, the concept is like doing something simple for something bigger, like planting and nurture a tree and then harvest. One of many examples, DSM has been managing a donated house as a health clinic which provides free medical check-up, free medicine, free ambulance service (which car is also a donation) for poor people of Bali, even helping women giving birth. Once again, I would like to thank you for the beautiful image.